Every year tons and tons of unwanted fabric ends up in landfills nationwide. It is called textile waste, and it is made up of discarded fabric. This includes everything from old sheets, to clothes, to socks. Textile waste makes up a total of 6% of everything put in landfills each year.
"Six percent may not sound like much but it's billions of pounds of which otherwise could be reused," said Jackie King. She is the executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycles Textiles Association, known as SMART for short. She added, "Unfortunately, the thing is 95% of that material could be reused or recycled."
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 46.5 billion tons of trash ends up in America's landfills ever year. It costs $41 for a ton of garbage to go into a landfill. That means textile waste alone costs American taxpayers just shy of $115 billion a year.
"That is a huge cost," said King. "Communities, cities, towns, states, looking are what we are going to do as our waste piles up - glass, paper, plastic. The next big component is textile waste."
A family owned business in Fort Payne called Zkano Socks is doing its part to fight the problem. Owner Gina Lockleer created a program to specifically recycle old socks.
"A few years ago, we launched Zkano Recycles. It is nothing fancy. People send us their old socks they're going to put in a landfill, but instead they send them here and we'll have them recycled," said Lockleer.
The packages inside the Zkano warehouse come in from all over the country, from as far away as New York and California. Lockleer collects them in a giant recycle bin which, once full, is delivered to a nearby shredding facility. From there the material is sold to companies which make carpet padding for the automotive industry.
Click here to learn how your old socks can be recycled through Zkano. They only ask that you wash them before shipping, and only donate socks - not any other clothing or underwear.